Just 14 days after saddling Eight Belles to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), trainer Larry Jones will give a leg up to jockey Gabriel Saez and the two will take Hinkle Farms’ Buy the Barrel postward in the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (gr. II) May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.
Saez bore the brunt of criticism from those angered by Eight Belles’ breakdown during the gallop out of the Derby, while Jones handled the ruthless media spotlight with as much grace and class as could be expected. They're both working to regain focus following the accident. It hasn’t been easy.
Buy the Barrel could bring a little sweetness back for the duo, and if she runs according to her recent form she’ll be rightly placed in the 1 1/16-mile dirt event for older fillies and mares, which is the race before the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) . The 4-year-old Kentucky homebred daughter of E Dubai, out of the Drouilly mare Affordable Price, was much the best in the April 9 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which she won by a handy 5 ¾ lengths. But this is her first graded stakes attempt.
Of the eight other runners entered in the DuPont, six come off winning performances. Only the Reade Baker-trained Bear Now, second in the April 20 Whimsical Stakes (gr. III) after finishing eighth in the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), and Gary Contessa trainee Runway Rosie, second by a head in Aqueduct’s April 25 Sweetzie Stakes after running second in the Next Move Handicap (gr. III), cannot claim recent victories.
Leading the winning fillies to challenge Buy the Barrel is Elk Manor Farm’s highly-competitive Silver Knockers, who has hit the board in four graded starts - but the 1 1/16-mile distance is a question for the Nick Zito runner. While her past performances include a runner-up finish in last year’s Adena Stallions’ Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) and a third in the Prioress Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont, her only attempt at 1 1/16 miles resulted in a flat seventh in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) over Keeneland’s Polytrack.
Whether she disliked the surface or the distance remains to be seen, but the 4-year-old daughter of Silver Deputy, bred in Maryland by James Moran Jr. out of the Two Punch mare Knock Twice, is definitely the class of the field. And she wired the competition in a one-mile allowance event at Gulfstream March 27 to win by 5 ¼ lengths in her last start, so she could add another score to her 3-2-2 record from 11 starts.
Also classy – and a graded stakes winner – is Edward Seltzer’s Wow Me Free, a 4-year-old Menifee homebred from Kentucky out of the With Approval mare Double Wow. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Wow Me Free took the March 29 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct by 3 ½ lengths over Runway Rosie, going 1 1/8 miles and drawing clear after a wide trip behind the pace. It was her first graded score, back-to-back with a win in the 1 ¼-mile Ladies Handicap Dec. 15.
The Shug McGaughey-trained Altesse, winner of the Sweetzie, Mark Hennig trainee Peach Flambe (winner of Gulfstream’s April 19 Cicada Stakes), May 3 Dashing Beauty Stakes winner Cash’s Girl (trained by Tim Richey), and Lexi Star, winner of the April 19 Geisha Stakes for trainer Christopher Grove, complete the talent-laden field.
$150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (gr. II, Race 11, approximate post 5:13 p.m.), 1 1/16 miles for older fillies and mares, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Altesse, 118, Ramon Dominguez
2. Runway Rosie, 118, Kent Desormeaux
3. Peach Flambe, 118, Edgar Prado
4. Bear Now, 118, Jamie Theriot
5. Cash's Girl, 118, Pablo Morales
6. Lexi Star, 118, Jeremy Rose
7. Buy the Barrel, 120, Gabriel Saez
8. Silver Knockers, 118, John Velazquez
9. Wow Me Free, 120, Alan Garcia